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ProBasketballTalk 2013-14 Preview: Milwaukee Bucks

Sep 27, 2013, 9:19 AM EDT

Miami Heat v Milwaukee Bucks - Game Three Getty Images

Last season: The Bucks went 38-44, reaching the playoffs despite a mid-season firing of Scott Skiles. Their high-scoring and high-shooting backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis defined the team, but it was really as a team without a strong identity. Before the playoffs began, Jennings predicted the Bucks would beat the Heat in six games. Miami swept the series.

Signature highlight from last season: The terrible shot selection of Milwaukee’s starting backcourt finally paid off in the closing seconds of a February game in Houston. Brandon Jennings dribbled on the perimeter and off balance into a shot that even he realized was too bad to take. So, he passed to Monta Ellis, a bad-shot aficionado himself. Relying on all his bad-shot experience, Ellis delivered.

Key player changes: The Bucks were nothing if not busy this summer. Here’s the synopsis:

Yes, Kravtsov appears on both lists. Milwaukee was just wheeling and dealing like that.

Keys to the Bucks’ season:

1) How good do the Bucks want to be/how good can their point guards let them be? Third-year point guard Brandon Knight frequently struggled with turnovers in Detroit the last two years, so extremely that it had a big negative effect on the Pistons’ offense. If Knight makes a jump in ability, the Bucks have no problem. Their top point guard will also be their point guard with the most potential, and that’s easy.

If not, Milwaukee must decide between Knight (the sometimes erratic point guard who needs experience to get better, but would mean more losses this season) and Luke Ridnour (the steady veteran who has nowhere to go but down, but will mean a little more short-term success). It could be a direction-defining decision.

2) Are any recently signed free agents underpaid? Why did the Bucks sign O.J. Mayo ($8 million per year), Zaza Pachulia ($5.2 million per year), Carlos Delfino ($3.25 million per year) and Gary Neal ($3.25 million per year)? I can’t pretend to know the exact answer to that question, because it doesn’t’ make the most sense, but I’m guessing Milwaukee didn’t want to pass on available value. Those four players might not generate a playoff berth, but if they’re underpaid, it’s easier for the Bucks to trade them or upgrade the team elsewhere next summer.

3) Can Larry Sanders be a good team’s best player? Second best? Sanders’ four-year, $44 million extension makes him, barring other moves, Milwaukee’s highest-paid player in 2014-15 and beyond. He’s a defensive force, but not quite in the discussion as one the NBA’s very best defenders. Offensively, he’s more limited. He’s a very nice player to have, and the Bucks definitely paid enough to ensure they have him. As he grows from his breakout season, we’ll get a better sense of just how good Sanders can be.

Why you should watch the Bucks: You won’t understand Larry Sanders’ value by looking at just his common statistics. Watch Milwaukee, and you’ll get a better sense of how he impacts the game defensively. Otherwise, this is a blah bad team, and I don’t have much here.

Prediction: Bucks in six. 33-49. The Bucks will be OK. Probably not OK enough to make the playoffs, but they have at least an outside chance. Probably not bad enough to land a premier draft pick, either, but they have at least an outside chance.

The Bucks are very different from last season. Yet, they’re very much the same.

  1. frankgarrett - Sep 27, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    Dan Feldman is a Sheep . I bet he want’s to work for Obummer like all the sissy “SO CALLED BLOGGERS DO” oh I mean journalists

  2. jjthesportsguy - Sep 27, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    I think this team is more in the 25-30 win range. I think the ping pong balls will roll their way in the draft though. If they don’t this year then in the next 2 years for sure. The NBA has its eyes on moving this team(see the noted arena discussion in Milwaukee), and what would make it marketable to new owners? Having a top tier draft pick like Wiggins or Jabari Parker. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them with two top 5 picks before 2017 when the teams current BMO Harris Bradley Center lease expires and the team would be able to pack its bag and skip town for Seattle.

  3. senorpapino - Sep 27, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    Give it a rest. What was Jennings supposed to say? The Heat are superior and we have no chance?

  4. dysraw1 - Sep 27, 2013 at 2:59 PM

    well new back court, paid in full, not sure if the big L is a center or not.still i don’t think they be as good as last seasons post. but i could be wrong Ojay has been dying to be the man somewhere, with a good support team like the Bucks he could break out a little bit. the pressure on Knight to prove he belongs doesn’t help.

  5. bougin89 - Sep 27, 2013 at 3:43 PM

    They didn’t do what I wanted them to do(totally tank) but they have a roster with flexibility and might still be just bad enough to have a decent pick in the lottery. I just hope they give G-Po, Knight, and Henson good minutes early and often to see what is really there. Even if it means we lose some games. It’s not like sneaking into the 8th seed(which seems like the ceiling for this roster) just to get destroyed by Miami is going to help us get better anytime soon.

  6. tonyc920 - Sep 27, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    I see this somewhat differently than the other comments. I don’t expect the Bucks to light it up, especially in the first 20 games but they have some players I like and maybe just maybe they blend well and give a few teams fits, We got rid of the 2 Allen Iverson wanna be’s. We picked up some guys who should be more selective shooters, maybe even dish it off like they didn’t the past couple years. Ultimately they need to be more physical and that’s why I like Sanders and Henson. I’ll hold off on judgement until we get to 30 game mark in the season. I think the glass is 1/2 full.

  7. divan22 - Sep 27, 2013 at 9:59 PM

    Absolutely no mention of John Henson. Amazing.

    Mark my words: Henson will be their most productive player by season’s end.

  8. bhunter1995 - Sep 30, 2013 at 3:05 PM

    It will be fun to see which players on the Bucks will have break out seasons. Best of luck to them, I respect their GM for wanting to keep a competitive squad and not tank. They need to take some notes from the Pacers who have built their current title contending team with mostly mediocre draft picks.
    (Paul George was a 10th pick, Granger and Hibbert were both 17th picks)

  9. jameskocian - Oct 5, 2013 at 11:46 AM

    I agree with the aforementioned positive sentiments.

    One thing that is rarely discussed is the lack of chemistry in last years club. Frankly, local reporters cite it more as hostility than anything else. Between players. Between players and coaches. No one was getting along.

    Hence, the clean sweep (of both roster and playoff aspirations)

    Even ‘risky’ acquisitions such as OJ Mayo have seemingly had an epiphany about the privilege of being able to play NBA basketball, and for clean starts.

    The biggest loss the Bucks suffered from last season will likely turn out to be Tobias Harris. But what’s done is done, and I am hopeful this team will outperform most prognostications.

    With leaders such as Caron Butler on the squad, whose impact in cohesiveness has already been demonstrated, I am optimistic.

    Further, with all of the parity between most NBA rosters, an intangible such as team rapport and trust can help any team to overachieve.

  10. muskyhunter2542 - Oct 18, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    This team is not moving. Lets stop talking about it.

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